For those who suffer from dandruff, winter isn’t the only time snow makes an appearance—those white flakes can come down all year long. Dandruff is undoubtedly one of the most frustrating skin conditions to deal with. And while it’s more common in men than women, having all that dead skin and itchiness can be an embarrassing situation for anyone. It’s enough to make someone regularly wonder how to get rid of dandruff, once and for all.
For some people, getting rid of dandruff isn’t a huge issue, and for others it can take more time—especially because there are multiple reasons why it might be happening in the first place. “Dandruff is a very prevalent skin issue that I deal with every day in my practice. The best way to go about treating it is to figure out the cause,” says Lana Pinchasov, RPA-C MPAS, dermatology PA at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “Dandruff can be caused by just having a dry scalp, which involves skin shedding and thus dandruff. It’s also caused by eczema or psoriasis on the scalp or having a condition called seborrheic dermatitis—a very common cause of severe dandruff due to an overgrowth of yeast on the scalp or sebum from the oil glands.”
So how do you go about eradicating those annoying white flakes? Here’s how to get rid of dandruff for good, in ten easy-to-follow steps.
Use a Hydrating Shampoo
One of the simplest fixes for dandruff: Switching your shampoo to something more moisturizing. “Start by using a hydrating shampoo a few times a week,” Pinchasov says. “Swap out your regular shampoo for Head and Shoulders or Selsun Blue and use it 1 to 2 times a week. A great hydrating option I personally love is Kiehl’s Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Shampoo.”
Wash Your Hair Like Normal—No More, No Less
If you’re experiencing dandruff, don’t change your hair-washing routine—just keep up with your usual schedule so you aren’t causing any additional issues. “Oftentimes I’m told people tend to wash their hair less often when they have dandruff, but using a hydrating shampoo can really help a dry scalp—washing less isn’t really a solution,” Pinchasov says. “Just wash as often as you normally do—especially since over-washing isn’t good either, as it strips the scalp of its natural oils.”
Use Some Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple vinegar has so many uses it’s hard to keep track. And one of the most unexpected? The fact that it could help get rid of dandruff. According to Dr. Oz, just mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup water in a spray bottle, then apply it to your hair right after you shampoo. After 15 minutes, rinse it off. If you use the method twice a week, you’ll stop the flake-causing fungus in its tracks.
Use an Anti-Yeast Solution
Sometimes general shampoos won’t do the trick. If you really want to learn how to get rid of dandruff, Pinchasov says to reach for something that directly targets yeast to ditch those white flakes. “If your dandruff isn’t resolving, try an over-the-counter anti-yeast shampoo—particularly Nizoral or a zinc sulfate-based shampoo,” she says.
Use Some Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is known for its anti-fungal properties—and its powers can help out your scalp, too. According to a study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, using the essential oil is a great way to fight off the species of fungus that can make those white flakes appear on your head. For an inexpensive option, try the highly-rated Hollywood Beauty Tea Tree Oil Skin & Scalp Treatment, which you can snag for only $8.
Try a Common Acne Treatment
Salicylic acid isn’t just great for clearing up your skin. According to Pinchasov, it also makes for a helpful dandruff treatment. One great—and easy-to-find!—option to try is Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo, which uses the ingredient to break down the flaky build-up on your scalp.
Put Crushed-Up Aspirin in Your Shampoo
If you want to get your salicylic acid fix from a home remedy instead, check your cabinet for some aspirin—something it’s actually an important active metabolite of. (The more you know, right?) “Some providers tell their patients to crush two aspirins and add it to their shampoo for a dandruff treatment,” Pinchasov says.
Use a Tar-Based Product
When you think of tar, you probably picture the dark black gooey stuff that fixes cracks in roads. Surprisingly, if you’re wondering how to get rid of dandruff, it’s also an effective treatment option for your issue. “Some derms recommend using tar-based products, which is mostly helpful for severe flaking,” Pinchasov says. “Both Neutrogena T/Sal and Cutar are great choices.” Just be careful: “The only things to be aware of is that tar can discolor the hair—especially lighter hair shades—and it can also make the scalp more sensitive to touch,” she explains.
Learn How to Lather
If you’ve never properly learned how to lather your hair, the time is now: it’s extra important in dandruff treatment. “When you’re using dandruff shampoos, make sure to allow them to penetrate into the scalp. This is best done by lathering,” Pinchasov says. To lather, gently work the product into your hair in circular motions, making sure to get your entire scalp—even the hard-to-miss area on the back of your neck. Then allow it to work its magic: “Let the shampoo sit for five minutes, then rinse it off,” she explains.
Take Some Probiotics
Ahh, probiotics. They keep your gut happy and your scalp clear of white stuff—at least according to an older study, which found taking a probiotic that contains Lactobacillus paracasei bacteria not only reduced scalp itching and greasiness, but also greatly decreased the amount of dandruff people were experiencing. It’s not a quick fix, though: it could take months to get the results you want. But for those who’ve been wondering how to get rid of dandruff for a long time, it might be worth a try.